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The Power of Philanthropy

For some Atlantans, helping others is the most precious gift of all. Meet the city’s top nonprofit minds, the next generation of philanthropists—folks for whom giving back is a way of life—and the supporting players bringing benevolence to life through their respective efforts.

Braves’ pitcher Tim Hudson and his family foundation focus on children’s charities.

Tootsies hosts an in-store fundraiser for Living Art America

Janice McKenzie-Crayton

Tim Sheehan at The Atlanta Opera Ball

Tony Conway’s New Orleans-inspired centerpieces at the Nsoro Starfish ball

John Brennan

Kelly Dolan

Preston Wilson Jr.

Sam Henderson

Amy Agami

Johanna Ellis

Celeb Cause: Hitting the Mark
Plenty of athletes do their part to give back, but few take it quite as personally as Braves’ ace pitcher Tim Hudson. He created the Hudson Family Foundation to give back to children in need of physical, emotional or financial assistance through events, grants, scholarship programs and more in the Atlanta and Auburn, Ala., areas. Hudson—who’s received several awards for his sportsmanship and community involvement—also works with organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Their big fundraiser, a benefit concert featuring Rascal Flatts at the Auburn Arena, happens on Jan. 24.

Shops That Give Back: Retail Therapy
Spending money on the latest fashions and beauty must-haves is a no-brainer, but why not give back when you’re loading up on goodies? >>> Woo Skincare and Cosmetics ( hosts events benefiting the Adopt a Golden Atlanta rescue organization each year. >>> Tootsies ( raises funds for ovarian cancer, The Chelko Foundation and orphan charities through annual fashion shows. >>> Department stores such as Bloomingdale’s (, Neiman Marcus ( and Saks Fifth Avenue ( are often giving a percentage of sales to Zoo Atlanta, the Nsoro Foundation and NBAF.

Janice McKenzie-Crayton: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
When she came to BBBSMA as president and CEO in 1992, Janice McKenzie-Crayton thought it would be a short stint to help the agency boost its coffers. She assumed she’d return to the field of higher education, where she spent the first part of her career helping institutions such as Spelman College raise funds.

“Once I got into it, there was so much amazing work to do,” she says. “My work at colleges and universities was to raise dollars for those who were already in college; the work at BBBSMA was about making sure more young folks were able, through mentoring, to go to college.”

Twenty-one years later, she’s still leading what is now the Southeast’s largest one-on-one mentoring program, serving more than 3,000 children ages 6 to 21 (Littles), with adult mentors (Bigs) annually in 12 counties (tripling the 800 served when she came on board). She’s also increased the budget from $1.4 million to more than $3 million (thanks largely to prestigious annual events such as the Legacy Awards Gala) and, in the past three years, reduced the waiting list from 1,300 to 500.

But the biggest accomplishment, she says, was moving into a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters at 1382 Peachtree St. in Midtown in June 2012. The move (made possible through a three-year $6.5 million capital campaign) has created visibility and awareness among potential volunteers and donors, and added space to host workshops for mentors, mentees and their families.

The goal is to eventually serve and change the lives of 5,000 children in Georgia, McKenzie-Crayton professes. “Littles are given the opportunity to experience things that they would not ever have the chance to experience, and research says that kids who have Bigs stay out of trouble, show up for school, refrain from drug and alcohol abuse, and get along with peers and guardians,” she notes.

The ironic thing? “Bigs who start out thinking they will help someone often get just as much,” she says, “if not more, out of the experience.”

Solid Advice: The Giving Tree
Whether you sit on a board, work with a nonprofit, give once a year or are a full-time philanthropist, Atlantan Tim Sheehan of BNY Mellon Wealth Management has some sound guidance. His firm has custody of 20 percent of the globe’s assets, so when he shares what he’s seeing across the nonprofits that his clients contribute to and Mellon manages, we listen.

Where did your interest in philanthropy start?
With my father. My mother died when I was 9. Even at that early age, I was overwhelmed with the generosity and support shared by our church and community. My dad insisted we give back what was given to us. Many Saturdays, we could be found standing in front of local businesses asking for donations to raise funds for a local cause or charity in need.  

What trends are you seeing these days with the nonprofits you work for and those to whom your clients donate?
Donors have not decreased their overall giving; however, they are giving to fewer organizations. Uncertainty of markets has put more stress on portfolios, and donors are more strategic and focused. An increased demand on services [and] decrease in donations, along with the increasing regulatory and audit requirements for nonprofits, are the makings of a perfect storm for an unprepared organization.      

What should a nonprofit be doing now to cultivate donors?
Donor education. Donors want to affect change in their community—share exactly how funds will be used and the specific numbers that will be impacted by their donation. Be flexible. Provide opportunities to give noncash and nonfinancial resources, too.

What are you seeing trendwise in board composition of nonprofits?
Donors that sit on boards are increasingly concerned about their fiduciary responsibilities. Board composition is changing dramatically. We are seeing more and more business leaders transition back and forth between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Today’s board needs to understand asset allocation, investment alternatives and strategic planning, in addition to running the business side.

How has today’s philanthropist changed from years past?
Giving has fundamentally changed. Families are coming together to decide the legacy they want to leave. They are more thoughtful in coming together as one voice. They are rolling up their sleeves and want to be involved. 

Number Crunch:20
The anniversary year that both global humanitarian organization CARE, as well as volunteer opportunity finder Hands On Atlanta are celebrating in Atlanta this fall.

Top Five: The best event designers and caterers in the city give time and talent to countless charities.
1. Tony Conway With either over-the-top or understated elegance, his team puts on the city’s best events. Think Starfish Ball and A Meal to Remember.
2. Tony Brewer From the flowers at the Corps de Ballet luncheon to transforming a ballroom at the Piedmont Ball, he’s done it all.
3. Dennis Dean With his orange-clad staff, this foodie philanthropist has put on charitable displays for SCAD, Alliance Theatre and PALS.
4. Mary Hataway Her Soiree Catering and Events has prepared more ladies luncheons for the Atlanta History Center, and more, than countable.
5. Carole Parks The Garden of Eden Ball and the ASO’s Decorator’s Showhouse are always delectable due to Parks’ creative touches.

John Brennan: Make-A-Wish Georgia
A longtime nonprofit exec, John Brennan was faced with some daunting tasks when he joined Make-A-Wish Georgia as CEO in 2011. The laundry list? Retooling fundraising efforts, reducing the amount of kids with life-threatening medical conditions waiting for wishes to come true and increasing annual wishes granted.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the 18-year-old nonprofit (part of Make-A-Wish National, with 62 chapters nationwide) raised more than $3.6 million in its fundraising campaign (up from $2.45 million), increased wishes granted from 310 to 426 and significantly reduced its waiting list of 600-plus kids.

“We’ve built up the capacity when it comes to fundraising, and our wishes show it,” says Brennan. The goal, he adds, is to fill 829 wishes a year in Georgia. The $5.6 million agency receives $1.2 million of its budget from donors of in-kind goods and services, with remaining funds coming from individuals, corporations, foundations and events.
The most requested wishes involve travel (Disney World tops the list), followed by appeals for everything from puppies to the chance to meet celebs like Justin Bieber, to transform into a ballerina for the day. But the 6,000th local wish granted locally in July was the most special to Brennan—a trip to see Annie on Broadway for 5-year-old Emerson of Evans, Ga., who was born with a defective heart.

“That’s a benchmark for our chapter,” he says. “When you go home at night, you’re invested in what you do, and the dividends are life-changing. Seventy-one percent of our surviving wish kids, now adults, say that the wish experience contributed to saving their lives, and it’s very rewarding to be part of that.”

Kelly Dolan: Atlanta Women’s Foundation
The chance to help Atlanta’s women and girls break the grip of the cycle of generational poverty was all the enticement Kelly Dolan needed to take the helm of the AWF as executive director in July.

“In the five counties we serve, there are 81,000 girls who wake up in poverty every day, and almost 320,000 women in poverty,” Dolan says. Now that she’s on board, Dolan plans to use the marketing, advertising and administration skills she gleaned from jobs with nonprofit groups such as Children’s at Egleston Pediatric Hospital and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to help boost awareness about generational poverty and how to solve the problem.

“We need to get to the core of what is holding back women and girls in Atlanta, and this is the organization that’s doing that,” she says. “What a fantastic thing for the city, and I get the honor of being part of the group that is making women and girls economically self-sufficient.”

AWF funds grass-roots nonprofits such as Cool Girls Inc. and Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential that offer programs targeted toward changing the trajectory of women’s and girls’ lives permanently and lifting them out of poverty. These range from early-childhood education to teen pregnancy-prevention.

“Research shows that if you intervene early and educate girls about opportunities that are available to them you have a much higher ability to have a positive impact on them and help them make better choices in their lives,” Dolan says. AWF’s funding comes from corporate partnerships and individual donations. The biggest fundraiser is the Numbers Too Big to Ignore luncheon. Held annually at the Georgia World Congress Center, it attracts more than 1,000 guests and raises about $500,000, with this year’s luncheon serving as the kickoff for a new awareness campaign.

“We need to elevate the level of awareness about the cause,” she says. “Once people understand the impact that generational poverty is having on the community, more people will get involved, and the more people on a broader scale, the more we can help. It all starts with awareness building.”

The Future of Philanthropy: Meet four of the city's most charitable up-and-comers.
Preston Wilson Jr.
Chief cause: “As chairman of the planning committee for the Michael C. Carlos Museum’s Bacchanal 20th anniversary, I’m helping the museum raise funds for their critically acclaimed exhibitions and education programs.”
Supporting this year: ”The Atlanta Opera Ball, A Meal to Remember and I’m serving as auction chairman for the second year in a row for the Captain Planet Foundation Gala, Atlanta’s largest eco benefit.”
Why give back?: “At an early age my parents taught me the importance of giving, and to whom much is given, much is expected. I try to preserve my father’s legacy by devoting my time and efforts to support the Atlanta community.”

Sam Henderson
Chief cause: “I’m a founding member and chairperson of Atlanta Humane Society’s 1873 Society Club.” The junior board raises funds for dog-fighting prevention, the animal wellness clinic, as well as the low-cost spay and neuter programs.
Supporting this year: “A Meal to Remember and Party in the Kitchen, which delivers healthy nutritious meals to homebound seniors in the metro Atlanta area.”
Why give back?: “It’s very important to find a charitable organization that affects you on a personal level. Get involved as early as possible, even if your time and energy are all you are able to donate. You are certain to do great things for your community.”

Amy Agami
Chief cause: “I think Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the single most important nonprofit in this city and state. It’s recognized as one of the largest pediatric clinical providers in the country and ranked among the nation’s top pediatric healthcare systems.”
Supporting this year: “Ian’s Friends Foundation’s Evening of Inspiration, The Language and Literacy Gala for The Atlanta Speech School, Emerging Leaders for Children’s Healthcare”
Why give back?: “Growing up, I watched my parents, Lila and Doug Hertz, give back. They instilled the importance of seeing the world through the eyes of others.”

Johanna Ellis
Chief cause: “I recently joined the advisory board for the Emory Palliative Care Center.” The center focuses on healthcare during serious illness, trauma and end-of-life experiences. “I also joined the board for Goodwill of North Georgia. They placed over 11,000 people in jobs in 2012.”
Supporting this year: “Bodies as a Work of Art, The Humane Event, A Meal to Remember, Cheer for Children, Forward Arts Foundation, AtlantaPOPS”
Why give back?: “I learned [about charity] from working with my mother. Most of the organizations I support have come from the interests of the many people who have kept my family business, Atlanta Classic Cars, successful for nearly 40 years.”

Facts & Figures: The "Cost" of Giving
The black-tie season is not for the faint of pocket. Here’s an unscientific breakdown of just what it costs to give back—stylistically speaking, anyway... Average ticket price to A-list gala, $500 >>> Fashion for him: Dior Homme cashmere single-button peak lapel tuxedo, $6,800 >>> Fashion for her: Jason Wu printed silk ball gown, $5,740 >>> Grooming for her: $40 for makeup and $65 for updo at Beauty Bar of Buckhead. Grooming for him: $40 for regular haircut at Who’s Who Salon, Buckhead. Grand Total: $13,185